Tag Archives: Celtic

Ireland – The History

While Ireland today is dominantly Roman Catholic, its ancient history lies in pagan roots which gave rise to an interesting mythology of powerful Deities, invasions, and magic.

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Irish settlement began after 8,000 BCE with post-Ice Age Mesolithic people settling much of the land. These hunter-gatherers later adopted agriculture, farming and cattle raising, which led to an increased dependence on the seasons and calendar year.

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The Neolithic Stone Age saw a great number of megaliths built across much of the British Isles, some of them astronomically aligned such as the Brú na Bóinne complex of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth (ca. 3,200 BCE). Cairns and dolmens were also built around this time to house the remains of their dead.

The Bronze Age saw Ireland flourish with wealth by means of industry and trade, with the first tools and weapons being forged from this new metal.  Hill forts and ring forts started to appear, including ‘crannogs’ surrounded by water.

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From about 600 BCE, the first Celtic/Gaelic people came to Ireland from central Europe.  They brought with them tools of iron, marking the beginning of the Iron Age.  This was a time of small war-like kingdoms called ‘tuaths’, which saw Irish society divided into aristocrats, farmers and slaves.  A priestly class of people, the Druids, were seen as the leaders of society, presiding in matters such as law, agriculture, medicine, and war.

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By about 50 CE, the Romans had conquered much of England, and although they never full conquered Ireland, the island was heavily affected by Roman influence.  The Romans provided the first written account of Celtic people, society and religion.  However due to their bias on the Celtic ‘barbarians’, it is not known how accurate these descriptions are.  Comments were made on the war-like savagery of the native people, as well as the Druids dealing in human and animal sacrifice.

In 432 CE, the famous Patrick was taken from western England and enslaved in Ireland.  Patrick eventually escaped years later, however after he had a vision, he returned to Ireland to preach the word of God.  By the Middle Ages, Ireland was dominantly Roman Catholic.  This was a time of monks and scholars, who created illuminated manuscripts, like the Book of Kells.

The golden age of Irish scholarship ended with the Vikings, who began raiding the Irish coast by 795 CE.  They started by raiding monasteries, however soon began settling the land, founding towns such as Dublin, Cork, and Limerick.  It is said the modern name ‘Ireland’ came from the ancient patron Goddess of Ireland, Eire, and the Norse word ‘land’.  The famous High King of Ireland, Brian Boru, led his army into battle in 1014, which ultimately ended the Viking rule in Ireland.

ireland, national heritage park, viking village

In medieval times, many manuscripts recording the ancient mythology of Ireland were written, such as the Book of Invasions, Lebor Gabála Érenn.  Although written hundreds of years later, and written by Christian authors, these manuscripts are some of our only ties to pre-Christian paganism in Ireland.

Irish History
Ireland History
Wiki – History of Ireland

© A Year And A Day (2013)

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Danu, Great Mother

Dana, Anu, Ana, Anann, Danand, Dôn (Wales), Danuvius (Roman), Duna (Hungarian), Donau (German)

  • Danu is an ancient Irish triple goddess who is considered the “Great Mother” of Ireland.
  • She is the Mother of the Irish gods and faery people, the Tuatha Dé Danann , which literally means the “People of the Goddess Danu”.
  • Danu means knowledge, wisdom, wealth and abundance.  However her name is also connected to water, and could mean ‘the flowing one’.
  • Danu is thought to have married Bilé and was the mother of the Dagda, the chief leader of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  In other myths, she is known as the daughter or lover of the Dagda.
  • Her other children included Nuada, Dian Cécht, Ogma, Airmid, Etan, Miach, Cian/Kian, Sawan and Goibhniu.
  • Because of the similarities in correspondences, Danu has been associated with other goddesses, including Anu, the Universal Mother, and the Morrigan, the goddess of war.
  • Danu is also very similar to the Welsh goddess Dôn, who is the mother figure of the medieval tales in the Mabinogion.
  • Danu was also sometimes associated with Brigid, the daughter of the Dagda.

Danu

  • It is thought through her association with water, the River Danube was named after her.
  • Also, there are two round-topped hills in County Kerry, Ireland, called Da Chich Anu/Anann (the Paps of Anu), thought to represent the two breasts of Danu/Anu.

Danu_Anu

  • Danu has a strong connection to the land and water.  She is a goddess of fertility, bounty, plenty, prosperity, wind, rivers, water, wells, wisdom, and inspiration.
  • Some of Danu’s symbols include holy stones, horses, seagulls, fish, amber, gold, flowing water, air, wind, earth, moon, keys and crowns.
  • Danu reminds us that we are capable of realizing our own dreams, empowering us to create our own destiny.

Wiki Danu
Goddess Danu
Timeless Myths – Danu
Celtic Deities
Thalia Took – Danu

© The Celtic Journey (2013)

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Faeries

Faery, Fairy, Fay, Fey, Fae

Faeries are otherworldly creatures or spirits that appear in folklore.  They are often thought of as human in appearance and having magical powers, however are sometimes unpredictable and dangerous.  In modern cultures they are often depicted as cute tiny winged creatures, however originally faeries were depicted anywhere from tall, angelic beings to short, hideous trolls.

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Faeries are known by many different names and variations:  Adhene, Asrai, Banshee, Bogle, Brownie, Bucca, Corrigan, Changeling, Dryad, Dwarf, Elemental, Elf, Fair Folk, Fates, Fir Darrig/Fear Deang, the Gentry, Gnome, Goblin, Good Folk, Gremlin, Gwyllion, Hobgoblin, Imp, Jinni, Kappa, Kelpie, Leprechaun, Naiad, Nature Spirit, Nymph, People of Peace, Peri,  Pixie, Pooka, Puck, Redcap, Selkie, Sidhe, Sprite, Spriggan, Sylph, Seelies and Unseelies, Troll, Urisk, Undine, Wee Folk, Wichtlein and others!

Common themes among the Celtic nations describe faeries as a mythical race of people who have been driven into hiding by some sort of invader.  One such race is the Tuatha Dé Danann following their defeat from the Milesians (Celts), forced to live underground in the hills and mounds of the Otherworld.  These alternate realms have been described as Mag Mell (the Pleasant Plain), Emain Ablach (the Fortress of Apples, the Land of Promise, the Isle of Women, Avalon), or the Tir na nÓg (the Land of Youth).

Faeries_FlorenceHarrison

Faeries are known for their mischief and malice, however some faeries were known for giving protection, healing or passing their skills to mortals.  In Scottish folklore, fairies were divided into the Seelie Court, the fairies who would play harmless pranks on mortals but were generally kind hearted, and the Unseelie Court, the malicious fairies who would try to bring harm to mortals for fun.

  • Faeries were prone to kidnapping humans, particularly babies, and leaving changelings in their place.
  • Faeries were also known to use magic to disguise appearance, such as ‘fairy gold’, which would quickly reveal itself to be leaves, gingerbread or another worthless item after the debt had been paid.
  • It is thought that if you travel to the world of faery, if you eat any of the faery food, you will be trapped in the otherworld forever.
  • Also time is thought to pass by at a much quicker rate in the faery world, with tales of humans escaping the faery realm after what appears to be a few hours, finding that decades had past.

Many trees, mounds and other natural features are considered property of the faeries, and any mortal who damages them would be cursed.  In many parts of the British Isles, people would avoid building or disturbing known faery mounds or faery paths as to avoid such curses.

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Some people would leave offerings around their home to appease the faeries and prevent them from causing mischief, including milk, sweet desserts like cake or chocolate, shiny or pretty objects like glass, gemstones, or shells.  Faeries are thought to dislike iron, charms of rowan and herbs, running water, bells, St John’s wort, and four leaf clovers among other things.

Faeries appeare in folklore from ancient tales of medieval chivalry, to romantic Victorian literature and more modern tales.  Faeries gained popularity during the Romanticism of the Victorian era, inspiring the image of beautiful, tiny, winged creatures, helping mortals they meet.

Types of Faeries

Faeries Wiki – Fairies

© The Celtic Journey (2013)

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Áine, the Faery Goddess

Áine of Knockainy, Ain Cliach, Ain of the Light, Áine N’Chliar, Ain Cliar the Bright

  • Áine (ON-ya) is an Irish Goddess of summer, love, protection, fertility, wealth and sovereignty.
  • In her role of Moon Goddess, she guards livestock, crops, and cattle.
  • In her role as Sun Goddess, she could take the form of ‘Lair Derg’, a red mare that no one could outrun, in order to walk among her people.
  • Also known as a Faery Queen and Love Goddess, she has been known by other names such as the Lady of the Lake, the Goddess of the Earth and Nature, the Goddess of Luck and Magick, and Leanan Sidhe (“Sweetheart of the Sidhe”).

Aine Caroline Evans

  • Áine is thought to mean “brightness, glow, joy, radiance, splendour, glory, fame”.
  • She is associated with Midsummer (Litha, Summer Solstice), however also has sacred days following Lughnasadh.
  • She is associated with the Sun and Moon, the element Air, the direction South West, and one of the sacred herbs of Druids, Meadowsweet.
  • Her sacred animals are the red mare, rabbit, and swan.
  • She is associated with the Irish Province of Munster, specifically County Limerick, where the hill of Knockainy (Cnoc Áine) is found.

CnocAine

  • Áine is thought to be the daughter of King Eógabail/Eoghanach, a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann and the foster son of the sea god Manannan Mac Lir.  However, other legends claim that she was married to Manannan Mac Lir.  Other sources state that she is the daughter of the Dagda and sister to Brigid.
  • Áine is thought to be the sister of Aillen and/or Fennen (Finnen/Fenne/Fennel).
  • She is also thought to be the sister of Grian (Grainne), with Áine ruling over the light half of the year and Grian ruling over the dark.  However Grian could also be another aspect of Áine.
  • Áine is sometimes mistaken for the Mother Goddess Danu, who is known regionally as Anu.

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  • Áine was also known as a Love Goddess, and people would worship her in the hope that she might bestow sexuality, fertility, abundance and prosperity upon them.
  • Through her many relationships with human men, she is thought that she gave birth to a magical Faerie-Human race, which is how she gained her name as Queen of the Faeries.
  • One of the myths surrounding Áine describes how she sat in her birthing chair on Lughnasadh and gave birth to a sheave of grain. It is believed that by performing that act, Áine gave the gift of grain to the people of Ireland.

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  • Many stories exist regarding Áine and her mortal lovers.  It is said that Gerald, Earl of Desmond, once stole Áine’s cloak while she swam in a river, and would not return it to her until she agreed to marry him.
  • Their son was Geroid Iarla, known as The Magician.  Áine made a deal with the Earl that he would never be surprised by anything her son did, however after performing a superhuman deed, the Earl was surprised, and Áine was free to return to the fairies (sidhe).
  • In other stories, Áine is the unwilling wife of Geroid Iarla, and ends up turning him into a goose or killing him (or both).
  • Another myth describes how Áine was raped by the King of Munster, Ailill Aulom, which led to Áine biting off his ear.  By biting off his ear, Áine deemed Ailill unfit to be king due to his disfigurement.
  • From all her aspects it is shown that Áine was not a deity to offend, if crossed she could have coined the phrase “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”.

  • Invoke Áine for love, fertility, faery magick, abundance, prosperity, and the protection of women and animals.

Wiki Aine
Angelfire Aine
Faery Healing Aine
Gemini Witch Twin – Aine
Vampgyrl – Aine
Tansy Fire Dragon – Aine

© A Year And A Day (2013)

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The Dagda, Father of All

  • The Dagda is a powerful Irish god, also known as Eochaid Ollathair (“All Father”), Ruad Rofhessa(“Lord of Great Knowledge”), or Lord of the Heavens.
  • His name means “good”, and is known as the god of protection, warriors, knowledge, the arts, magic, music, initiation, prophecy, weather, reincarnation, death, fire, the sun, healing, regeneration, prosperity and plenty.
  • Sources vary in terms of his family members.  In some sources, his father is Elatha and his mother is Ethniu/ Eithne.  Also Danu is either seen as his mother or his daughter, probably due to his association with Brigid.
  • The Dagda is thought to be the father of Bodb Dearg, Aed Minbhrec/Aed Cáem, Cermait Milbél, Midir, and daughters Áine, and Brigid.  He was also the father or brother of Oghma.
  • Through his affair with Bóand/ Bóann, he fathered a daughter Breg and son Óengus/Aengus /Angus Óg.

  • He was High King of the Tuatha Dé Danann, after his predecessors Nuada and Lugh.
  • The Tuatha Dé Danann conquered Ireland from the Fir Bolg and Fomorians, prior to the coming of the Milesians (Celts).
  • Prior to the battle with the Fomorians, he mates with the goddess of war, the Mórrígan, onSamhain, in exchange for a plan of battle.

Dagda

  • The Dagda was described as a huge and stocky man, with superhuman strength as well as superhuman appetite.  He possessed several magical objects.
  • One of them was a great treasure of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the magic cauldron from a magical city of Murias.  Known as the Cauldron of Dagda, the Cauldron of Plenty, or Undry, it was thought to be bottomless and left no man unsatisfied.
  • Another was a giant club or hammer that could kill several men at once with its head, and bring them back to life with its handle.
  • The Dagda also possessed a magic oak harp called Uaithne, or “the Four Angled Music”, used to change the seasons and weather, or to command the order of battle.  This is also the harp that is seen on many Irish flags (and Guinness beer!) symbolizing Ireland to this day.
  • He is sometimes likened to the Gaulish god Sucellus, the striker, who is depicted with a hammer and cup.

  • He is credited with a long reign as High King of the Tuatha Dé Danann before dying at the Brú na Bóinne, succumbing to a wound inflicted by Cethlenn/Caitlin during the Second Battle of Magh Tuiredh years prior in retribution for the death of Balor.
  • He was replaced as King by his grandson, Delbáeth, who fathered the famous matron goddesses of Ireland, Ériu, Banba and Fodla.

Wiki – The Dagda
Timeless Myths – Dagda
Celtic Deities

© The Celtic Journey (2013)

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Cerridwen, Keeper of the Cauldron

Cerridwyn, Ceridwen, Cyrridven, Caridwen, Kyrridwen

  • Cerridwen is a Welsh goddess of inspiration, wisdom, rebirth, transformation and prophecy.
  • She is known as the keeper of the cauldron of knowledge, the mother of transformation and change, and the white lady of inspiration and death.
  • Cerridwen holds great power and knowledge and is often described as a crone goddess, creating a triad with Blodeuwedd and Arianrhod.
  • She often represents the darker aspect of deity and has connections to the Underworld.

  • She was married to Tegid and lived on an island with her daughter Creirwy the fair, and Morfran/Afagddu the dark.
  • Cerridwen is associated with a great white sow.

Cerridwen

  • Cerridwen is mentioned in the Mabinogion, a collection of Welsh myths.
  • In one story, Cerridwen brews up a magical potion in her cauldron of poetic inspiration (Awen) in order to make her son Morfran/Afagddu wise and knowledgeable to make up for his ugliness.
  • She leaves young Gwion Bach in charge of stirring it, warning him not to taste a drop.  However three hot drops of potion fall onto his thumb, which he instinctively put into his mouth.  Tasting the potion, he was granted the sacred knowledge meant for Cerridwen’s son.
  • Furious, Cerridwen chases Gwion through the seasons, changing forms and shapeshifting, until finally she swallows Gwion.  She becomes pregnant, and nine months later she gives birth to Taliesin (“radiant brow”).
  • Initially thinking to kill the child, she has a change of heart, and instead throws Taliesin into the sea. He is later rescued by the Celtic prince, Elffin, and becomes a great Welsh bard.
Thalia Took Cerridwen
  • Cerridwen’s cauldron contained a potion that was brewed for a year and a day in order to reach its full potency.
  • The cauldron is a symbol of transformation (both physical and spiritual), enlightenment, wisdom, the womb, the Mother Goddess, and rebirth.
  • Through the Mabinogion, Cerridwen is also associated with the legend of King Arthur.  Her son Taliesin became associated with the legend of Merlin through his role of bard of the court of Elffin (Arthur).

About.com – Cerridwen
Sacred Mists Blog
Wiki Ceridwen
Thalia Took – Cerridwen
Goddess School – Cerridwen

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Brigid

Brigit, Brigid, Brighid, Bríde, Brìd, Brìg, Brigantia, Breo-Saighead, Breo Aigit (Gaelic), Ffraid (Welsh), Mary of the Gael, Saint Brigid (Catholic)

  • Brigid is a very important Triple Goddess in Celtic mythology.
  • Her three aspects include the Fire of Inspiration as patroness of poetry, Fire of the Hearth as patroness of healing and fertility, and Fire of the Forge as patroness of smithcraft.
  • She is also linked to prophecy, divination, agriculture and livestock, feminine arts and crafts.
  • She can be thought of as the Celtic equivalent of Roman Minerva and Greek Athena.

  • The Celtic word Brig means “exalted one”, and her Gaelic name of Breo-Saighead or Breo Aigitmeans “fiery arrow” or “fiery power”.

Brigid_CelticGodsGoddesses

  • She is the daughter of the Dagda, and one of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The Morrigan, another triple goddess, is also thought to be Brigid’s mother.
  • Brigid was the wife of Bres of the Fomorians with whom she had three sons, including the warrior Ruadán, killed in battle.
  • Brigid is associated with the festival Imbolc/Candlemas, which is known as St Brigid’s Day to Catholics.
  • Brigid is associated with fire, including candles, heat, warmth, and sunrises.
  • Her association with fire is so strong that a perpetual sacred flame is kept burning by the nuns at her sanctuary in Kildare, Ireland.
  • Brigid is also connected to holy wells, including the one at Kildare. Wells were ‘dressed’ as a way to honour Brigid or ask for her help and assistance.

  • Crafts that honour her role as the protector of the hearth include Brigid corn/grain dollies and Brigid’s crosses.
  • Other symbols tied to Brigid includes arrows, bells, thresholds and doorways.
  • Animal correspondences include ewes, dairy cows, bees, owls, and serpents.
  • It is thought that the love and respect for her brought unity to the Celts.

Wiki Brigid
Goddess Myths – Brigit
Brigid’s Flame
Pantheon – Brigid

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Tuatha De Danann

The Tuatha Dé Danann, or “people of the goddess Danu”, were an ancient race of supernatural beings in Ireland.  They were said to have arrived from four great cities to the North, Failias, Gorias, Findias, and Murias, with several treasures.

The first was the Stone of Fal (Lia Fail) from Failias, which would scream whenever a true king of Ireland would place his foot on it. This was eventually placed on the mound at Tara, the mythical seat of the High Kings of Ireland. The next was the Sword of Nuada from Findias, a weapon that only inflicted mortal blows when drawn. The third was the Spear of Lugh from Gorias, which never missed its target. The last was the Cauldron of Dagda from Murias, from which a constant supply of food came forth.  These treasures also correspond to the four elements, with Lugh’s Spear representing Fire, Nuada’s Sword representing Air, Dagda’s Cauldron representing Water, and the Stone of Fal representing Earth.

With their King Nuada, they fought and defeated the Fir Bolg, the inhabitants of Ireland at the time.  Nuada lost an arm in battle, and was no longer allowed to be king because of it.  The half-Formorian Bres was chosen to be king instead, whose tyranny led to a battle against the Formorians.  In this second battle, King Nuada was killed by the Formorian King Balor.  However Lugh killed King Balor, defeating the Formorians, becoming High King of the Tuatha people.

They were eventually defeated at Teltown by the mighty Milesians (thought of as the first Celts).  Legend states that the Tuatha Dé Danann were allowed to stay in Ireland, but were forced underground.  They became known as the Faery People, or people of the Sidhe, and can be found in the faery mounds that still exist in Ireland today (such as the Brú na Bóinne, Newgrange).

The Milesians chose the name of the Tuatha Dé Danann goddess, Eriu, as the name of their new kingdom. Eriu (or Eire) is still used as the name of Ireland.  Eriu’s sisters, Banba and Fódla, are still sometimes used as poetic names for Ireland.

The Tuatha Dé Danann people are surrounded by myth and legend.  Ancient manuscripts depict the Tuatha people as real-life kings and queens, however they exhibit many ties to pre-Christian deities of Ireland.  The Tuatha Dé Danann included great heroes and deities, including Lugh, Danu, the Dagda,Brigid, Áine, Oghma, and the Morrígan.

And although defeated, they still exist in legends today.

Wikipedia
Magick and Mythology
Tuatha De Danann

© A Year And A Day (2012)

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Goddess Alive

Goddess Alive: Inviting Celtic & Norse Goddesses Into Your Life  Michelle Skye (2007)

The changing of the seasons, phases of the moon, even our personal experiences-all are reflections of the Divine Feminine. Create a stronger connection to the sacred world and your own divinity by welcoming these thirteen powerful Celtic and Nordic goddesses into your life. (Amazon)

The Winter Solstice: Cerridwyn, Welsh Goddess of Rebirth and Renewal
Imbolc: Brigid, Irish Goddess of Fire
The Spring Equinox: Eostre, Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring
Beltane: Freyja, Norse Goddess of Love and War
The Summer Solstice: Áine, Irish Goddess of Faeries and Fertility
Lammas/Lughnasadh: Danu, Irish Mother Goddess of Wisdom
The Autumn Equinox: Modron, Welsh Mother Goddess of Mystery
Samhain: Hella, Norse Goddess of the Underworld

Waxing Moon: Branwen, Welsh Goddess of Sovereignty
Full Moon: Maeve, Irish Goddess of Personal Power
Waning Moon: The Valkyries, Norse Goddesses of Battle Magic and Soul Journey
Dark Moon: Morrighan, Irish Goddess of Magic and Death
New Moon: Rhiannon, Welsh Great Queen and Horse Goddess

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Spiral

The Spiral is known as a symbol of the goddess, a symbol of life.  A Spiral represents “death and rebirth as movement into the disappearing-point of formlessness, and out of it again, to a new world of form.” (The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets)

Spiral symbology is also present in the Double Spiral and Triple Spiral.  Double Spirals represent dual purpose in life, the inward journey and the outward journey.  A Double Spiral can also be seen in the yin-yang symbol.

The Triple Spiral is believed to be an ancient goddess symbol.  It can be thought to represent the Triple Goddess (maiden, mother, crone) or the goddess Brigid.  The Triple Spiral is also used to represent the three realms of land, sea, and sky.

File:Newgrange Entrance Stone.jpg

Also known as Triskele, the Triple Spiral is seen at many ancient Irish Megalithic and Neolithic sites, such as at the Newgrange monument.  Triskelions can also be seen in the flags of Sicily and the Isle of Man.

The Celts believed that all things moved in eternal cycles, and the triple spiral reminds us of the cycle of life.

Goddess Symbols
Wikipedia

© The Celtic Journey (2013)

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Eostre

Ēostre (Ostara, Ēastre) is an obscure Germanic and Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and dawn, and is thought to be the namesake of the Christian holiday Easter.  Her festival is celebrated on the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring.

File:Ostara by Johannes Gehrts.jpg

The cleric Bede first described Ēostre in his book De Temporum Ratione in the 8th century.  However, material related to her is so minimal that some scholars argue that she was never a goddess at all.  Her name could have been derived from Ēosturmōnath, the Germanic name for the month of April.  The High German word for Ēostre is Ostara.

Eostre - Thalia Took

Her name is thought to mean “to shine”, therefore Ēostre is seen as a goddess of the dawn.  However it is also thought that Ēastre is the ancient word for “spring”.  There are also links to the name Ēostre and “east”, the direction of the sky where the sun first rises, which gives Ēostre the name “Eastern Star”.

Through her association with dawn, Ēostre may be related to the Greek Eos, Roman Aurora, or Indian Ushas.

Ēostre is connected with growth, renewal, abundance, new beginnings and fertility.  As symbols of rebirth and fertility, eggs and rabbits are sacred to her, as is the full moon.

Ēostre represents the transitional time between childhood innocence and adult passion, and reminds us that life is full of untold possibilities and adventures.

Thalia Took – Eostre
Wiki – Eostre
Goddess Alive

© A Year And A Day (2013)

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